Hypsometric curve

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Hypsometric curve of Earth as a histogram.

A hypsometric curve is a histogram or cumulative distribution function of elevations in a geographical area. Differences in hypsometric curves between landscapes arise because the geomorphic processes that shape the landscape may be different.

When drawn as a 2-dimensional histogram, a hypsometric curve displays the elevation on the vertical, y-axis and area above the corresponding elevation on the horizontal or x-axis. The curve can also be shown in non-dimensional or standardized form by scaling elevation and area by the maximum values. The non-dimensional hypsometric curve provides an hydrologist or a geomorphologist with a way to assess the similarity of watersheds — and is one of several characteristics used for doing so.